The acronym, INDIA or Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance, that 26 Opposition political parties devised as the name for their joint platform, signifies several attributes of the collective. It can be claimed as a sign of the determination to work towards a predetermined goal. It can also be found to be a laboured and unsteady stretch — of language and politics. In naming itself after the country, the alliance is trying to confront the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on its turf of nationalism. It hopes the name will convey to voters what it wants to — that the BJP is antagonistic to an inclusive vision of India. The parties are united in their opposition to the BJP for both tactical and ideological reasons, and the sheer birth of INDIA has been found disturbing by the ruling party. These parties have been at the receiving end of a hostile campaign by the BJP using state power. The Congress, by stating that it has no claim for the post of Prime Minister in the event of a victory in the general election in 2024, has made it easier for the alliance to take shape. The birth of INDIA marks the best coordinated effort by the Opposition to challenge the dominance of the BJP since 2014.
The Congress is the axis of INDIA, but several constituents of the formation are in direct contest with the party in many regions. In West Bengal, Punjab and Kerala, constituents of INDIA continue to fight one another. The claim of it being an alliance is unrealistic, for this and more reasons. The realisation among these parties that there is a larger political battle to fight is the strength of INDIA right now. Seat sharing among partners is going to be an extreme challenge, even as they swear by a shared vision of a pluralistic India. Several parties and leaders in the partnership face corruption investigations and trials, which make them vulnerable to enticement and pressure from the BJP. There are already reports of bruised egos and shattered ambitions among the leaders who had gathered in Bengaluru this week, but they have resolved to convene again in Mumbai. Many of these parties have a shifting approach towards the BJP and face a challenge of public credibility. Though the BJP’s moral high ground has considerably eroded through its years in power, the party will continue to question its opponents on the question of dynastic politics and corruption. While the case that the Opposition is building against the BJP is intrinsically strong, there are barriers to be overcome before it appeals to a large enough segment of the public to emerge victorious.